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Can Rangers break out of funk after bye week?

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A couple months of competitive play cooled the once-hot seat of New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault considerably, but there was plenty of grumbling going into the team’s bye week (which began after Sunday’s loss to Vegas).

If there’s one thing Rangers fans and media could see eye-to-eye on, it was that the team’s been struggling lately, particularly when it comes to scoring. Blueshirt Banter captured some of this frustration while calling for GM Jeff Gorton to “stop the madness.”

The Rangers haven’t won a game in regulation since 12/19 when they beat the Ducks 4-1. In that span they’ve needed overtime or the shootout to beat the objectively bad Sabres and Coyotes, lost to the mediocre Red Wings, got totally dominated by Chicago in an embarrassing loss, and got dominated again by Vegas on Sunday. The only reason the (scores) have been as close as they have been is because of the Henrik Lundqvist and Ondrej Pavelec duo standing on their heads.

Indeed, it’s true that Lundqvist has played his typically vital role in the Rangers turning things around, even at his advanced age.

To some degree, there’s a “Groundhog Day” element to all of this: Lundqvist standing on his head to mixed-yet-arguably-inoffensive results, goals being tough to come by, and people calling for Vigneault’s ouster thanks to some head-scratching lineup decisions.

Heading into the break, fans were especially frustrated with the continued yo-yo-ing of Pavel Buchnevich.

The disdain bubbled up enough that the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis called for Rangers fans not to “lose their composure” over the scratch.

Plenty of hand-wringing takes place regarding lineup choices, but it all brings up an uncomfortable question: are the Rangers truly equipped to handle this problem? Is this something that’s a matter of will, or is there simply not enough skill on this roster?

Just today, the Rangers announced that Chris Kreider underwent “rib resection surgery” on Sunday and will be evaluated again in six weeks. (Click here for a brain-full on what that procedure entails, if you enjoy going deep on medical jargon.)

There are plenty of Rangers fans who will always want more from Kreider, fairly or not, but he’s been a steady 20-goal scorer as is. With Derek Stepan in Arizona, Mats Zuccarello dealing with some injuries, and Rick Nash experiencing the sort of lousy puck luck he usually only suffers from during the postseason, it’s less and less surprising that the Rangers’ options boil down to “hoping Lundqvist will save the day.”

All of that makes scratching Buchnevich feel more egregious, although perhaps that snub and some rest might light a fire under the young scorer (and the rest of the Rangers’ offense)?

Such a thought might be excessively optimistic, although give the Vigneault-era Rangers this much: they seem to do their best work once people give up on them.

Considering how road-heavy the rest of their schedule looks, they shouldn’t struggle to find odds that they must defy.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Winnipeg Jets fans quickly reach Chiarot fine GoFundMe goal

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Winnipeg Jets fans put their disdain for Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry to good use over the past few days.

A GoFundMe that came about after a fine to Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ben Chiarot reached its goal on Monday, just 48 hours after it went live.

A total of 153 people donated over $4,300 in two days and all of it will go to the Christmas Cheer Board, a local Winnipeg charity that provides food hampers and gifts for children during the holiday season to those less fortunate.

“I’m not surprised Manitobans stepped up because they always do. I was surprised at how quickly word spread and how people from outside Manitoba have jumped in to help,” said Kyle Klatt, a Winnipegger who set up the GoFundMe page.

The crowdfunding page was set up to raise the same amount of money Chiarot was fined after he put the butt-end of his stick into the chin of Anaheim Ducks star Corey Perry last week, which can be seen below.

Chiarot was fined $3,763.44 for the incident, the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.

Chiarot wore a smile on his face when reporters attempted to ask him about the GoFundMe, but declined to comment on Monday, preferring to leave his negative on-ice moment where he left it in Anaheim.

Klatt said he’s happy with how the campaign turned out and hopes others can follow its lead.

“I guess I am a bit proud the idea turned out the way it did,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been getting more praise than I deserve though. I would like the word to get out about this campaign so we can raise a bunch of money but also so others in different markets may use the same idea to raise money for other worthwhile causes.”


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jets fans set up GoFundMe after Chiarot fine

Associated Press
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Winnipeg Jets fans are having a bit of fun (again) at the expense of Corey Perry, who was on the receiving end of a butt-end to the face on Friday.

Jets defenseman Ben Chiarot was the culprit in the second period of a 4-1 Winnipeg win against the Ducks. Chiarot got his hands up in Perry’s grill and, along with it, the butt-end of his stick.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety deemed it to be a no-no and fined Chiarot as much as they could under the current collective bargaining agreement, just under $3,500. 

Ducks fans, of course, weren’t too pleased that Perry’s face needed many stitches to repair the wound, which can be seen here:

For Winnipeg fans, Chiarot was doing God’s work. And now those same fans are trying to use the incident to spread some love.

A GoFundMe to raise the same amount of money Chiarot was fined has been set up, with donations going to the Christmas Cheer Board, a local charity in Winnipeg that provides food hampers and toys for children to those less fortunate during the holiday season.

A great man by the name of Ben Chiarot butt ended Corey Perry the other night. He was fined $3763.44 and I am looking to collect that amount and donate it to the Christmas Cheer Board in Ben’s name. This way almost everyone wins in this “tragedy.”

Hilariously, the GoFundMe has raised nearly half its goal amount of $3763.44 from 75 people in five hours (at the time of this blog post.)

Perry’s history with the Jets and its fans goes back some years.

During the playoffs during the 2014-15 season, Jets fans, forever unhappy with Perry and his perceived antics, chanted ‘Katy Perry, Katy Perry’ periodically. Perry, of course, would have the last laugh in that series as the Jets were swept out of the playoffs in four games by the Ducks.

Last season, Perry drew the ire of Jets fans once again after this slash to the hand of Mathieu Perreault:

Perreault missed four games because of a broken finger.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

‘Fun to watch’ — Devils rookie Jesper Bratt off to hot start

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Bovada has released its Calder Trophy odds, and the names on the list shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes tops the list at 9/2, followed by 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier, who recorded his first NHL point for the New Jersey Devils on Monday, and what a thing of beauty that was.

Here’s a look at the list:

Clayton Keller (Arizona): 9/2

Nico Hischier (New Jersey): 5/1

Anders Bjork (Boston): 7/1

Brock Boeser (Vancouver): 7/1

Charlie McAvoy (Boston): 7/1

Alex DeBrincat (Chicago): 8/1

Nolan Patrick (Philadelphia): 9/1

Dylan Strome (Arizona): 9/1

Tyson Jost (Colorado): 12/1

Jakub Vrana (Washington): 20/1

Kailer Yamamoto (Edmonton): 20/1

Again, nothing really out of the ordinary with that list, highlighted by top prospects and first-round draft picks. It’s still early and plenty can change, of course, but there is another first-year player that, if things continue the way they are going, should start to gain more attention throughout the league.

He isn’t a first-round pick.

No, you’d have to scroll all the way down to the sixth round and the 162nd overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft to find this player’s name.

At 19 years of age, Jesper Bratt of the Devils has been able to fly under the radar to some degree because of the addition of Hischier with the top pick in June, and a number of acquisitions made this offseason to upgrade that club’s offense heading into the 2017-18 campaign.

Maybe not for much longer, though.

The first week of the new NHL season isn’t over yet, but so far Bratt leads all NHL rookies with three goals and five points in two games. He scored twice on Monday, as the Devils crushed the Buffalo Sabres.

“He’s a really good hockey player already. He’s young and he just got over here,” said Devils forward Marcus Johansson, per NJ.com. “It’s fun to watch, and I think everyone can agree on that. If he keeps going at this pace, it’s going to be pretty impressive.”

It should be mentioned that he’s currently sporting a shooting percentage of 100. That will, likely at some point in the next few days, begin to go down. Early on, though, he’s been a productive player for a Devils team that made several high profile moves over the past two summers to improve their woeful scoring attack.

There have already been a few surprises to begin this NHL season. You can add the early breakout of Jesper Bratt to that list.

Dumb, fun, once-in-a-century: Leafs win wild one vs. Rangers

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Toronto Maple Leafs fans probably should have known better.

Late in the first period, as the Maple Leafs built a 5-1 lead against the New York Rangers, the home crowd gave Henrik Lundqvist a “Bronx cheer” for one of his last saves of the period (and night).

You’ll encounter the phenomenon of a Bronx cheer when fans of a home team get on their goalie during a tough night – that couldn’t have helped a disgruntled Patrick Roy many moons ago in Montreal – but heckling the away netminder in that regard? Audacious.

It’s also probably a situation where fans take things for granted, and even largely starfallen Leafs fans might deserve some leeway: at that point, they followed up a 7-2 win with a 5-1 first period.

That crowd went from cocky and cackling to cold-quiet in the second period, however, as the Rangers managed a stunning comeback that locked the game at 5-5 heading into the third. All of a sudden, Frederik Andersen felt at least a portion of Lundqvist’s pain in a wild game.

Credit the Maple Leafs for shaking that off, and credit head coach Mike Babcock for being just open-minded enough, despite his hard-driving tendencies, to let this young team fight through the gaffes and letdowns.

Maybe it’s easier to find the lighter side of things when you’re winning 8-5 (as Toronto did on Saturday) rather than losing in such fashion.

“It’s kinda fun, eh? … But it’s dumb,” Babcock said, and really explained this contest, not to mention some of Saturday’s wildest games overall.

That high-octane offense is something Toronto hockey fans haven’t seen in 100 years. No, that’s pretty much literally the case.

Hey, dumb and fun is the sort of thing that can work in sports. The Boston Red Sox crushed their curse with “idiots.” Sometimes the scariest athletic opponents are the ones who aren’t afraid to fail, and don’t allow thoughts of failure to slow them down.

It sure beats slow, boring, and on the wrong side of the scoreboard, too.